Mountain Biking in the Himalayas - Come Sweat it Out with 'MTB Himalaya'
I've always admired people who stand out of the crowd and pursue things differently. I call such people free spirits and have utmost respect for them. One such individual is a friend of mine - Ashish Sood, who is the face behind Asia'a premier mountain biking challenge - MTB Himalaya . A lot of adventurous people out there, ought to know about his venture - and also how to be a part of it and experience the thrill of a lifetime.
AN INTRODUCTION TO MOUNTAIN BIKING (MTB)
Mountain biking is the sport of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially designed mountain bikes. So, it’s not really biking in the mountains, but on any trail which is not really paved or cemented.
A mountain bike looks like a regular bike, but is especially designed to combat rougher terrain with inclusion of suspension on the frame and fork, larger knobby tires, more durable heavy duty wheels, more powerful brakes, and lower gear ratios needed for steep grades with poor traction.
Mountain biking is yet to hit the mainstream sports, however it is gaining popularity among the masses at a great speed. The name ‘mountain bike’ was first used in mass media in 1966 as ‘mountain bicycle’ when a modified bike was used for freewheeling down mountain trails. This sport became popular in the 1970s in the Northern California (also the hub of many other innovations in the world).
However, the first mass-production of mountain bikes started only in 1981. Slowly in 1990s and 2000s, it started as an international activity with races being organized in various countries and international racing circuits.
India boasts of having one of the most amazing mountainous terrains in the world. With the advent of organizers like HASTPA and MTB Himalaya, which have been organizing races and events in the Himachal Pradesh since the last 10 years, the sport has now reached a scale where people from all corners of the country now come and participate in week long races. Mountain Biking Himalaya is not an event but an experience.
Various groups have formed in bigger cities, like PedalYatri in Gurgaon, Cycling & More in Bangalore which organize frequent trips on various offbeat trails in and around the city. Pedalyatri now has over 1500 members and is growing rapidly with mainstream media also covering the group.
Events like MTB Himalaya , Trans- Himalayan MTB which is organized in the arid mountainous regions of Lahul & Spitidistrict, MTB Kerala and MTB Sikkim are attracting more and more participants these days. A lot of international participants from Europe, Africa and neighbouring nations like Bhutan and Nepal have also taken to participate in these events to enjoy the beauty of the Himalayan terrain. It won’t be surprising to witness more such races happening in the coming years.
Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association
Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA) was initiated by a group of like minded people from varied backgrounds and disciplines in October, 2004.The motivating factor for forming the organization was to promote holistic adventure tourism in the state of Himachal Pradesh, encompassing pertinent issues of sustainable tourism, such as livelihoods, environment conservation, community based tourism etc.
The natural resource base of any given area is the most valuable resource for its ecological as well as economical development. In the modern paradigms of development, tourism has become an activity that addresses the issues of community initiatives for sustainable development. Himachal Pradesh with its unique topography and culture is a great attraction to tourists. What also has to be considered in developing a long term tourism sustainability plan is the economic factors which motivate the local communities in taking the necessary steps to promote adventure based tourism in a consistent, phased manner preserving all that which today makes it an important part of the itinerary of the tourist visiting the region.
To promote responsible tourism where the local communities become the direct benefactors of tourism in the state along with the preservation of the ecological and cultural environment, team HASTPA began the process of planning for the promotion of responsible tourism since 2004. Himachal Pradesh has immense potential as an adventure tourism destination. With its huge treasure of Trans Himalayan terrain and the lower foothills of the Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh is a Hikers, Bikers, Kayakers and a rafter’s delight. It is a dream come true for adventure sports aficionados. The state has an extensive network of natural trails, which are best suited for the sport of Mountain Biking and Hiking.
HASTPA adopted the sport of Mountain Biking as its core promotional activity. Himachal Pradesh is a popular destination amongst mountain bikers from around the world. However except for a few regular circuits most interiors of the state have not been visited by tourists. Team HASTPA aims to take tourists to these interiors and pass the benefits to the native communities. On the anvil are to develop trails in the state and in the next five years interconnect the whole state of Himachal Pradesh with these trails.
HASTPA stands committed to the people of Himachal Pradesh to promote sustainable tourism and use Mountain Cycling as a tool to establish it as one of the premier destinations for cycling internationally. Future plans include, developing trails indigenously with the assistance and support of local Panchayats and pass the benefits to MTB HIMACHAL is supported and promoted by Himachal Tourism, the Department of Tourism, Government of Himachal Pradesh. As its long standing commitment to promote adventure sports in the state, the department has gone a long way in staging world class adventure events in the state, like The World cup Paragliding at Billing, India cup Rafting Challenge on the Sutlej, Winter Sports in Manali and many more. HASTPA as an organization is honoured to be associated with the department to holistically promote the sport of Mountain Biking in the state.
Himachal’s unique position as a mountain bike destination comes from its outstanding natural environment and its overall availability of constructed and natural routes.The Blue Mountains, spectacular sunrises, lush greenery delicately balanced with human existence forming the most perfect embroidered image hand crafted by the creator of this universe. The scenery becomes the protagonist of the most telling tale of an extraordinary test of human endurance and passion. Mountain Biking Himalaya is not an event but an experience.
As the challenge pedals into its 11th year of survival through the toughest terrains, MTB Himalaya volunteers to ride further, higher up as MTB Himalaya. Yes, the challenge this year is to ride through and explore the depths and mysteries of the majestic Himalayas. The stunning scenery of Shimla, Rohru, Narkanda, Chanshal Valley along with the strenuous cycling expedition make MTB Himalaya an enduring experience.
ASHISH SOOD - THE FACE BEHIND MTB HIMALAYA
A Post Graduate in Operations Management from the State University of New York, Ashish has had stints with Tata Consultancy Services, US DEPT of EDUCATION and Hewlett Packard. Ashish worked as a photographer/writer with Buffalo News New York for a short period of time. A hard-core Mountain biker who takes care of most of the events that HASTPA runs. Ashish is an Avid sportsperson who has represented School/University/Office in Football and Cricket. Ashish is the race director for MTB Shimla and is responsible for formulating the race structure.Ashish is a very keen cyclist who looks after the brand strategy as well as rider communications.
Before making Mountain Biking a full time career, Ashish was managing a good corporate job at the time, making a comfortable salary and yet he knew there had to be more. Something popped up in his head about combining his love of mountain biking and training since no one else seemed to be doing a very good job of creating a good program for riders in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
He feels that mountain biking is the best sport in the world because it combines the “cardio high” of an endurance sport with the flow and adrenaline rush of an action sport like surfing or skateboarding. The combination of these opposites create a sport that demands things of its participants that no other sport does.
I’ve had some of my greatest moments of clarity while my brain struggled for oxygen and my legs burned on a long pedal and I’ve had some of my greatest moments of “flow” ripping single track on the way back down. To me this is the essence of mountain biking – to conquer what the trail throws your way going both up and down.
'RIDE ACROSS SRI LANKA'
The ride across Sri lanka initiated by Vamini Sethi to break the Stereotype among women in India as well as promote the sport of mountain biking which she is amazingly energetic about was flagged off from Colombo by the women cyclist group ‘Pedal Pushers’ – Lalanthi Rajapakse, Dharshini Ariyaratne. There was good support from the cylists group in Colombo and a lot of riders were present for the flag off. Qasid from the Pedal Pushers group rode alongside Vamini and Ashish for 30 Kms. Vamini undertook this excursion to support women, to bring out the extraordinary in every woman. She concluded her journey across Sri Lanka riding a total of 1111kms , with 12000 feet climbing over a span of 9 days. She is an energetic mountain biker, an auto rally driver, an eager trekker and keen a natural life photographic artist whose photos have been featured on National Geographic. Vamini had undertaken this ride in order to break the stereotype around women in the country with mountain biking as a medium. According to her , it is very regular for ladies’ fantasies and desires to be overlooked while juggling between a vocation and family – and this is the generalization that she wants to change. Greatly enthusiastic about the sport, she wants to promote the green and clean sport among women as well as motivate ladies to take after their fantasies while dealing with a profession .
This expedition with a motive to empower and inspire women was supported by HASTPA and sponsored by UT Edge.The heroic Vamini started the expedition on the 14th of June 2015 from Colombo and went along the coastline covering the beautiful countryside , the surfing capital of Sri Lanka , the old capital of the island country , riding through wildlife sanctuaries meeting the most welcoming people all along their ride on two wheels and heading back to Colombo and completing their Ride across Sri Lanka – A full circle!!
Vamini was constantly supported by Ashish Sood , a specialized backer to Vamini , a mountain biker himself , he was her moral and technical support for this journey. The adventurous duo went every mile with a smile on their face despite the challenging conditions , the heavy winds and the scorching heats and completed the quest with smiles on their faces.
Through school programs MTB Himalaya aims to encourage more and more people to take up mountain biking and popularize the sport in India. MTB have received extremely positive response to their program. Schools across India are increasingly coming forward and inviting us to conduct this program in their respective campuses.
The program aims at identifying and promoting the best talent in India for mountain biking at these sessions. The selected students undergo various phases of training by professionally experienced riders.
The experience is a stepping stone for young talent to get trained to compete against international and national level riders at the prestigious Hero Cycles MTB Himalaya race which is Asia’s oldest mountain biking race and is considered to be amongst the toughest races in the world today. This training program is conducted across schools in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh.
During the program students undergo initial training and are familiarized with necessary skill sets required in mountain biking. The program aims to encourage youth to take up the sport of mountain biking thus establishing the sport at the grass root level and helping its spread across the country.
HASTPA is committed to the development of adventure sports in India and to put the country on the forefront of the international sports circuit. With mountain biking as its core activity, the organization is taking the sport to the grass root level by identifying, nurturing and training raw talent in the younger generation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. WHEN DOES MTB HIMALAYA 2014 TAKE PLACE?
Sept 27th to 4th October every year
2. WHERE IS THE EVENT?
This MTB Himalaya takes place in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh in India.
3. WHERE ARE THE START AND FINISH POINTS?
The event will start at Shimla and the trail will come in a full circle and finish at Shimla itself.
4. WHAT IS THE ENTRY FEE ?
+ For riders from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka,Bangladesh and Bhutan the entry fee starts from INR 23,499 for solo, & INR 44,000 for team of 2.
+ For international riders/ sponsored riders the entry fee starts from USD 649 solo, & INR 35,000 for team of 2.
+ Detailed fee structure is provided on the registration page on website and in Racebook.
5. ARE THERE ANY ENTRY FEE WAIVERS?
+ 25% off for Indian students and bonafide Himachal Pradesh residents.
+ 10% off if a group of 10 or more riders registers together as solo or multiple teams.
+ 10% off for past riders.
6. IS THE RACE OPEN TO ONLY PROFESSIONALS?
It is open to both pros & amateur riders.
7. WHAT IS THE DISTANCE OF THE RACE?
The race distance is 500 Km approx, spread over 7-8 days of riding.
8. IS THE RACE A TEAM EVENT OR A SOLO EVENT?
It is open to solo riders and teams of 2.
9. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT RIDING CATEGORIES?
+ There are 4 categories in MTB Himalaya currently.
1 Open Men Solo
2 Open Women Solo
3 Open Masters Solo (age 40 & above)
4 Teams of two
10. ARE THERE ANY MIXED TEAMS?
There is only one team category of two members each. There are no separate categories for mixed teams, masters teams etc.
11. IS THERE ANY CAP ON THE NUMBER OF RIDERS?
MTB Himalaya is open for the first 80 riders with confirmed registration.
12. HOW DOES ONE REGISTER FOR THE RACE?
To register for the race you have to download a registration form available on the registration page and fill it up and mail it to us duly filled up. You can also register online from the same page.
13. WHEN IS MY REGISTRATION CONFIRMED?
A registration is confirmed only when we receive the entry fee and full documents.
14. HOW DO I SEND MY REGISTRATION ENTRY FEE?
+ Pay online through PayPal by credit card
+ Make a wire transfer to our account detail
+ One can draw a cheque/DD in favour of Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association, and send it to:
A5, Commercial Complex,
Near Lift, Cart Road
Shimla 171 001
or can deposit them in any HDFC Bank branch across the country into our account for which the details are as follows:
Bank Name: HDFC Bank
Branch: The Mall, Shimla
Account Name: Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association
Account Number: 05241000010205
15. WHAT DOES MY ENTRY FEE INCLUDE?
Your entry fees includes:
1 Accommodation from September 27th to October 4rd. All food and beverages, including bottled water and excluding alcoholic beverages.
2 Race essentials like, energy drinks, medical back up, service back up (excluding spares).
3 Transport between stages if required.
4 Official race merchandise.
16. IS A DOCTOR’S CHECK UP NECESSARY?
Yes, it is mandatory for all to produce a certificate from a registered doctor, certifying that you are fit to ride in MTB Himalaya.
17. WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
Where we deem that you do have your own insurance, the organizers get everyone involved with the race (riders, officials, marshals, support staff etc) insured for the duration of the race. This is directly done by the insurance company, and all charges to be made to the insurance company are mandatory and excluded from the entry fees . The insurance covers you for any injury sustained during the race as specified in the policy document to be made available to you at the time of the race.
18. IS SIGNING THE INDEMNITY NECESSARY?
It is necessary and mandatory for all participants.
19. WHAT KIND OF SURFACES WOULD I BE RIDING?
MTB Himalaya is a race with varied surfaces. Expect singletracks & double tracks of just mud and dirt, rocky sections, small rivers, loose gravel sections and tarmac sections.
20. ARE THERE ANY BIKE AND HIKE SECTIONS?
Yes there will be bike and hike sections during the course of the race.
21. HOW MANY STAGES ARE THERE EVERYDAY?
There is one stages per day. Your time will be calculated on start and end of stage in each day.
22. DO I GET SOME NUTRITION ALONG THE STAGES?
There are Nutrition Points at equivalent distances during a race day. The nutrition points can be along timed stages, the lunch halt is always at the end of a timed stage.
23. WHAT’S THE TYPICAL RACE DAY MENU?
+ Breakfast is at 7am and includes, eggs, cornflakes, muesli, oats, bread, tea, coffee, milk etc.
+ Lunch is distributed in between the race stages. It is pre-packed and it includes parathas, pasta, mashed potatoes, dry fruits, chocolates, bananas, energy drinks etc.
+ Dinner time is 8pm and includes an assortment of vegetarian and non vegetarian Indian fare and continental everyday.
24. IS THERE ANY PRIZE FOR WINNERS?
MTB Himalaya has a total prize money of INR 10,00,000/USD 16,000* which is awarded to winners in respective categories.
25. HOW IS MY LUGGAGE TRANSPORTED?
+ Your luggage is transported everyday during the race in the luggage van to the camp. You are given luggage tags which correspond to your riding number.
+ Your bike boxes are collected at the race start and can be collected back once the race finishes.
26. WHERE DO I SLEEP EVERYDAY?
During the race days, accommodation is in tents on twin sharing basis. Double foam mattresses and sleeping bags are provided. The sleeping bags are tagged so that you get the same one everyday.
27. CAN I CHARGE MY BATTERIES (CELL PHONE, CAMERA) AT THE CAMPSITES?
We do make arrangements for the charging points to be available at all campsites, but we cannot confirm their availability at every campsite.
28. IS HOT WATER AVAILABLE AT THE CAMPSITES?
Yes, hot water is made available at the campsites for bathing.
29. I WANT TO BRING MY FRIENDS AS A SUPPORTERS BUT THEY WON’T BE RIDING. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Yes you are welcome to bring along your family & friends along for the race as a supporters. The entry form & fees for supporters is same as the riders.
30. I LIKE THE RACE, BUT I WANT TO SEE IT FIRST. IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY?
+ You can be a tripper and can experience the race from the sidelines. Details at www.mtbhimalaya.com/tripper
+ You can experience MTB Himalaya as a Volunteer. There are only 15 spots.
+ To enter as a volunteer just got to http://www.mtbhimalaya.com/volunteer Also, mention your Area of Expertise and Why you would like to volunteer for MTB Himalaya?
31. IS THERE ANY SERVICE BACK UP AVAILABLE DURING THE RACE?
Yes there is. There would be mechanics accompanying the race. Some spares are also available at cost. We recommend users of high end bikes to carry extra spares. Also one should be able to make minor repairs by themselves. Service during the race is only available during free ride stages.
32. CAN I RENT A DEDICATED SUPPORT VEHICLE?
Where as HASTPA provides support vehicles in cases of emergency, you can also rent your dedicated service/support vehicle. These cost INR 22,000 for the duration of the race. We suggest 4 riders to pool in resources to hire one back up vehicle.
33. DO I GET A ROUTE MAP & GPS CO-ORDINATES?
Yes. You will get a map with distances & also GPS co-ordinates for the course. You also get a road book with instructions. The route is GPS mapped using GARMIN.
34. WHO ORGANISES MTB HIMALAYA?
MTB Himalaya is organised by HASTPA and supported by Hero Cycles, UT Bikes, Discovery Channel, Suunto, Salomon and recognized by International Mountain Biking Association(IMBA).
35.I NEED TO KNOW MORE. I HAVE A SPECIAL REQUEST. WHAT DO I DO?
+ If you have more questions, contact us
A5, Commercial Complex, MC Parking,
Near Lift, Cart Road Shimla 171 001
Himachal Pradesh INDIA
+91 98164 45674 Ashish Sood
+91 88947 00727 Samir Azad
+91 177 265 9797 Phone & Fax
36. WHAT ARE THE MINIMUM NUMBER OF RIDERS IN EACH CATEGORY?
For each category to be competitive there needs to be minimum of 5 riders. In team category too a minimum of 5 teams are required for it to be competitive.
37. WHEN DOES THE BUS LEAVE FOR SHIMLA?
You can choose from the morning or overnight Volvo bus services of our Partners to get to Shimla. You have to reach Shimla on 26th September.
38. LAST DAY FOR BUS BOOKING REQUEST?
We will provide the bus bookings for the requests received by us till 10th September each year.
REGISTER WITH MTB HIMALAYA RIGHT NOW. WORTH IT.
Do the mountains , the challenging climbs , the thrilling downhills and riding your bike ripping off the trails excite you?
If YES, experience the excitement only at the Hero MTB Himalaya.
Register now @ www.mtbhimalaya.com
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The Epic Himalayan challenge that you all should try out !!
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